January has been proclaimed as Stalking Awareness Month. This year marks the 10th anniversary of commemorating this month. You can read the Presidential Proclamation by clicking here. It is estimated that up to 6.6 million people are stalked in one year (click here for reference). It is a serious issue that creates significant distress for its victims.
Stalking is commonly defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear” (click here for reference). It is of particular importance for those who experience intimate partner violence as it is the most common form of stalking and often the most lethal (click here for reference). Many women who are murdered by current or former intimate partners also reported stalking behaviors.
Stalking behaviors vary significantly but can include:
- physical surveillance — following, spying, watching, showing up at places
- unwanted phone calls or other contact — letters, emails, texts, gifts
- property invasion or damage
- proxy stalking (using another person to stalk)
- technology — GPS devices, social media, spyware, hidden cameras, etc.
Help is available. Safe Harbor’s 24-hour helpline can be reached at (804) 287-7877 to discuss your experience, receive support, develop a safety plan and access resources. Local law enforcement can help one determine if criminal charges can be filed against a stalker. Protective orders are also available in either General District or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (court to be utilized will depend on victim’s relationship with stalker).
The Stalking Resource Center’s website is an excellent resource. It has resources to help victims, advocates, friends and family of those being stalked and those who wish to learn more about this pervasive issue.